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“More than a monument”: a century of keeping Australia’s war records

Article Category  Community Interest
Date Published  Monday, June 5 2017
Author  Charles Rees

“More than a monument”: a century of keeping Australia’s war records
In his latest World War I history article, Charles Rees writes about the establishment of our nation’s War Memorial in May 1917.

In May 1917, the Australian Government established the Australian War Records Section of the A.I.F, upon the recommendation of war correspondent Charles Bean. Located in Chancery Lane and Horseferry Road (opposite A.I.F. headquarters), London, England, its function was to gather together documents and “relics” related to Australian achievements and sacrifice in World War One. It was set up to prevent Australian records becoming part of Great Britain’s records.

This was the commencement of the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, as we know it today.

The project was led by Lieutenant John Treloar recruited from Brigadier General (Sir) Brudenell White’s staff at 1st ANZAC Corps Headquarters.

Commencing with a staff of four, and with the aid of Charles Bean, the classifying of paper records, photographs, film, publications and works of art started. Most importantly were the battalion and brigade diaries.

Added to the collection were war trophies and ‘relics’. By wars end Treloar had been promoted to the rank of major, with a staff of 600, both civilian and military, including ‘ex-diggers’.

The war documents were classified into thirty-six subjects, later divided into five sections.
Battlefield hardware of ‘relics’ and souvenirs were assembled at various storage centres in France and England. Included were vehicles, heavy weapons, a tank, several aeroplanes, small weapons and equipment, tools, trench signs, uniforms, flags and medals.

In 1919 approximately 25,000 items were shipped to Australia to the newly created Australian War Museum (later Memorial). Some objects were distributed to the Australian States in the immediate post war years.

More than a monument.
The Australian War Memorial was made to be a shrine, a world class museum, an extensive archive and research centre.

The memorials purpose is to commemorate the sacrifice of those Australians who have died in war.

The Mission is to assist Australians to remember, interpret and understand the Australian experience of war and its enduring impact on Australian society.

Reference: Australian War Memorial, Canberra.

Photo: Australian War Memorial in Canberra. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

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